Fido Fone a Portable Whole
If your life is so complicated that you need a separate bag in which to
carry all your gadgets, the Fido telecom service provider in Canada and
Sony/Ericsson may just have your answer.
Its the Sony/Ericsson P800a, a wireless wonder that combines cell
phone, PDA, digital camera and entertainment device into one unit nearly
as small as the average Palm.
I refuse to let my life get so complex that I need such a device, but
for people who do, this is a pretty nifty unit.
Its fully featured cell phone works pretty much as youd expect,
plus you can shoot and e-mail pictures, and even use them in the included
Picture Phone book application. As a PDA, you can use the thing to track
your contacts, appointments, notes, and e-mail (with attachments). You
can even view documents in MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats.
The P800 also comes with Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) capability,
which lets you send and/or receive pictures, sound text and even voice
And if that isnt enough, you can play MP3 files on it (and listen
to them on the included stereo earphones), 3D games (well
) and even
widescreen video files (as long as you dont mind squinting!).
Besides transferring via messaging and/or phone, files can also be sent
to and from the P800 via its built in Bluetooth interface, IR port or USB.
Now thats flexible!
The P800 looks kind of like a tiny tablet PC, or a super small Etch-a-sketch,
with a largish LCD screen (in color, of course) on which you can do just
about anything short of bake a cake.
Available in our area from cell phone service provider Fido for $950 Canadian
($640US from American providers), its definitely not a cheap item,
but that isnt really too surprising now, is it? After all, if you
were to buy all this stuff separately, it would cost more and then youd
need that abovementioned bag in which to carry it all.
Anyway, Fido sent me the unit to try for a while and though it isnt
really my personal cup of tea it definitely works as advertised.
As a phone, the P800 offers all the usual stuff - though since its
part of the all-in-one machine its larger than most of todays
standalone cell phones. Not excessively large as far as I'm concerned (my
own cell phone is on the large size, comparatively, but I like it that
way), but larger and with a shape that doesnt fit into your hand
as snugly as the average cell phone. These size and shape issues arent
really disadvantages, but you should know about them if your idea of a
good cell phone is one thatll fold up and fit into your pocket and
take up about as much room as a key fob.
But its a good phone, with good sound quality and it works well.
You can use it either via its touchpad color screen or with a little attachable/removable
keypad. I preferred the latter method, mostly because its laid out
like a conventional phone pad and I could use it by feel; using the LCD
you lose the tactile advantage and have to rely on your eyesight, which
in my case is a real challenge. Not only that, but I found that my stubby
fingers would often punch the wrong virtual button on the LCD
screen, so even though the attachable keypads buttons are smaller
they worked better for me.
Then again, you also get a little stylus thats built into the units
side and you can use it to operate the LCD screen. I was really paranoid
about using it, however, because I figured the first thing that would happen
is that Id lose it. Fortunately, its attached quite solidly
and this didnt happen. But I was freaked out enough that I still
preferred the little keypad.
Besides, when you flip it open it looks like the old flip open communicators
from the original Star Trek TV series, and this adds to its niftiness factor
- though of course its irrelevant to its functionality.
Which method of input you choose is a matter of personal choice and its
nice that the phone/PDA/camera/whatever has given you that choice. I dont
think I would have liked the phone as much if Id been limited strictly
to the LCD screen - whereas others to whom I showed the phone thought the
LCD was the cats pyjamas.
Thats using it as a phone. Since its also a PDA youll
want to use that LCD display to track your contacts, appointments, and
The screen, incidentally, gives you a resolution of 208x144 pixels with
the flip keypad closed and 208x320 pixels with it open. HDTV it aint,
but what do you expect?
The P800 comes with a disc-shaped sync-station that connects
to your PC via USB port, and this is how you synchronize data between the
P800 and the computer. I had trouble doing this, which wasnt surprising:
Ive always had the devil of a time synchronizing these devices with
my MS Outlook files, possibly because I dont keep the Outlook files
where the units expect to find them and this causes them hissy fits.
You cant blame the Sony/Ericsson for that, however!
The company says the P800 will also interact with Lotus Notes software
and you can use it to synchronize e-mail youve sent and/or received
while on the road.
Quick buttons on the side of the unit give you instant access
to the built in camera or fire up the bundled Web Browser. I have yet to
be impressed by Web browsing on a cell phone, but to each his own.
Ive also never been impressed with the handwriting recognition of
PDAs such as this one - but thats more an issue of my own virtually
unrecognizable scrawl. Even if I use the Graffiti-like strokes the way
Im supposed to PDAs turn up their noses in disgust, and this
one was no different. This cut down on its usefulness for note taking and
the like, but people who have coordination in their writing hands will
undoubtedly have a better time of it.
Youll want to take a leisurely stroll through the thick owners
manual, P800 at your side, when you first get it because theres so
much stuff built into this unit it can make your head spin. Just bringing
up the menu listing such things as communicam, audio, video, calculator, clock, online
services and the like can be a tad intimidating, but it doesnt
take long to get the hang of things.
The P800 comes standard with 12 Megabytes of memory built in, plus you
get a 16 Mb Memory Stick Duo you can use to store the stuff you shoot and/or
download - and, if you have a Memory Stick Duo drive back at the office
(or wherever), you can transfer data with it just as you would a floppy
disk, saving yourself valuable and undoubtedly expensive air time.
Theres more, too, such as available accessories that offer such
stuff as hands free capability, but you get the idea: this P800 beastie
is a powerhouse in the world of wireless communication and definitely points
the way toward where that world is heading.
Overkill? Perhaps. It certainly is for me, whose mobile needs are simple.
On the other hand, while I was playing with the P800 I showed it to a number
of people who literally salivated at its prospects.
So the market seems assured.
Okay, Fido, this is definitely no dog!
Fido's Web site